The big question is when? When will things return to normal? Will our team’s season resume this year? Or will it be pushed to next year? During this era of COVID-19, all employees and teammates are asking these questions. While you might not be able to answer them, here are some useful tips to keep employees productive and engaged while they transition to working from home.
Who’s the Hero?
During normal times, I always speak about how the client is the hero of the story. During this time as a leader, manager, or teammate, we need to focus that attention and make your employee the hero of the story. If they are used to coming to the office or having regular meetings or engagements with you and your team, working at home can be a big challenge. A lot of people think they want to work from home but managing it on a day-to-day basis can prove difficult. They also need to be reminded this is not a paid vacation or an excuse to binge watch their favorite show on Netflix.
Make sure your employees know you care for them and are there for them. If you do not have regular contact with your team members, it will be easy for them to feel isolated during this time. Schedule 10- to 15-minute blocks every two or three days to check in individually with every member of your team.
Potential questions to ask about their well-being could be:
- Are you in a physically safe location?
- Do you have a good support system?
- Are you aware of all the benefits our company offers during this time?
- Do you have enough food and supplies?
- What can I do for you?
Establishing that you care and their safety, well-being, and that of their families is critical at this point. Engagement and great communication show proven results in retention after these trials have passed.
Communication and Support
If you haven’t spoken to them already about transitioning to working at home, the first thing to start with is making sure everyone has a routine. I consulted with Dr. Randy Wright, Director of the Brain Wellness Program at Houston Methodist Hospital, and he said it is scientifically proven that people are happier and more productive when they have a routine.
This goes for your children as well. If you are not used to working from home, establishing this routine takes a lot of self-discipline. When you work from home, suddenly there are dogs that need to be walked, kids that want to play, a spouse that has questions, and 100 other things that come up that normally we are shielded from in an office environment or while we are in the field.
It is important to remind people their work schedules at home should be no different than when they are at the office. If you normally start your day at 8:00 am at the office, when you are at home, you should be ready to start your work at 8:00 am as well. Make sure you have set up a home office where you feel comfortable and productive. Shower, shave, and do your morning routine as if you were going into the office. Let other people know this is not time off and you still need to be productive and accountable during working hours.
As a leader, schedule at a minimum a video call via one of the many platforms available nowadays, like Zoom and Skype. You can even use FaceTime, WhatsApp, or Facebook Video if needed. If you are not familiar with any of the available platforms, take a few minutes to practice with someone. Make sure you are aware of all the functions, how to mute and unmute, read the chat comments, and share your screen to integrate a PowerPoint presentation if need be.
Do you have an assistant or co-worker who can help you run the online meeting? To keep everyone engaged, ask a team member to present every week on a pertinent topic. Or if there is an issue which seems to be troubling everyone, let everyone share thoughts for two minutes in a best practices session.
If you haven’t done online meetings before and you are a little hesitant or resistant, don’t be afraid to give it a try. It can be a great way to connect with your team, keep momentum moving forward, and have some fun doing it.
Promote Professional Development and Client Engagement
Set clear expectations as soon as possible as to what you expect from your team and what they should expect from you. Information on COVID-19 is coming out so rapidly and changing so quickly it can make it difficult to process. You may or may not know when you will return to business as normal. With that being said, have your team focus on the things they can control, such as professional development.
Many people and organizations are offering free online classes or access to their online universities. Maybe you wanted everyone to take that online sales class or listen to a podcast on business development. Now is a perfect time to assign those tasks and make everyone’s takeaways part of your weekly online meetings.
Once your team is settled into as normal a routine as possible, then you can truly make your clients and prospects the hero of the story. Reach out to them, see how they are doing. Ask about their family and their business – is there anything you can do for them during this time of uncertainty. Send them a thank you card.
A lot of clients also use travel and commute times as an excuse not to meet. That friction has now been removed and is a great time to set up online meetings that have been postponed. People are touched and will remember you reached out in a time of need.
As a manager, leader, and teammate the best thing you can do is remain calm, help everyone set up a routine, initiate great communication on an individual and team level, and help people minimize and avoid the risk of exposure.
How are you helping team members adjust to working from home?
Write to Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.